11,320 Nigerians flee into Chad over Boko Haram attacks

The United Nations said Tuesday that the latest wave of Boko Haram's "vicious, ruthless attacks" in the. Northeastern part of the country had sent 11,320 people fleeing into Chad in a matter of days.

The Islamist group stormed the town of Baga on January 3, and subsequently razed it alongside at least 16 surrounding settlements.

While it has been impossible for aid workers to enter the area to verify accounts of the slaughter and of corpses rotting in the streets, the attack is feared to have been the worst massacre since Boko Haram's deadly insurgency began in 2009.

Some 20,000 people are said to have fled their homes in the area since the attack, and the UN refugee agency said that around 11,320 people had arrived in neighbouring Chad alone.

A full 60 percent of the new arrivals in Chad were women and girls, UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler, told reporters, adding that 84 unaccompanied children had also crossed over.

Another 2,000 people had become stranded on an island in Lake Chad during their desperate escape, he said, adding that UNHCR was working to transport them to the mainland.

"We deeply deplore the vicious, ruthless attacks against civilians in... Baga," Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN rights agency, told reporters in Geneva.

While the details of the attacks remained sketchy, she said it appeared "fairly certain... that mass killings and mass forced displacement have occurred."

"The deliberate targeting of civilians is clearly prohibited by international law and we are very concerned at reports that there were children and elderly people among the victims," Shamdasani added.

Credit: Zacheaus Somorin